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Photos ©: 1 Josh McQueen, 2 Pleasant Gehman, 3 Evi Numen, 4 Eric Sueyoshi & Dikenga Films,
5 Dusti Cunningham, 6 Zaghareet!, 7 Austin Young & Dikenga Films,
8 Maharet Bryant
Graphics and layout: Konstanze Winkler
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I experimented with my dancing, making it completely over-the-top and dramatic, producing many more theater shows. In 1995, The Velvet Hammer Burlesque was formed. It was the very first burlesque troupe in the country and they asked me to join as a belly dancer- because “back in the day” every burlesque show had one! We toured and did sold-out shows at LA’s 800 seat El Rey Theater, with a live band, it was amazing. Soon, I began performing classic burlesque because it was so much fun - though I kept it a secret from the Oriental dance community for a whole decade … because, like other belly dancers, I was disgusted at the general public’s association and confusion with belly dance and strip-tease!
I stayed with the Velvet Hammer thirteen years, appearing in three film documentaries and a book chronicling the troupe. Burlesque had exploded and was being considered an art form. I was still keeping my burlesque career a secret as I began doing national and international belly dance workshops.

In 2003, with film-maker Augusta, I started producing my line of instructional and performance belly dance DVDs. In 2005, we made the first-ever Burlesque instructional DVD, “Boom Boom: Hot Burlesque Moves For Cool Chicks”. It was a best seller and suddenly, my burlesque career was out of the closet!

While I was being defamed in on-line belly dance chat rooms, getting called everything from “slut” to “dirty pole dancer”, many belly dance promoters began wanting me to teach burlesque as well as belly dance. My first ever-burlesque workshop at a belly dance event was in the Bible Belt, at Shimmyfest in Fayetteville, Arkansas in 2005. I was nervous about how it would go over, but promoter Lena Regina called back two days after listing the burlesque class to add another - because it had sold out! In 2006, my old friend Kajira Djoumahna followed suit having me perform and teach burlesque at Tribal Fest, and that class sold out, too.

The floodgates were open.  But while burlesque was becoming an international fad, the world of belly dance wasn’t quite ready for it.

Princess Farhana on stage at Tribal Fest Sebastopol
Though I never fused belly dance and burlesque, and always insisted that they be appropriately and separately billed in announcements and in show programs, many belly dancers got the wrong idea about what I did, and I was gossiped about and slandered incessantly. It was a tough period for me - I dearly loved and believed in both genres as valid art forms. The criticism was harsh and in some cases unfounded, spread by people who had never seen -let alone understood- what I was doing.

I was afraid that my first love - and my entire career - in belly dance was going to be negated because of my involvement in burlesque, which I also loved teaching and performing. During this time, some of my Oriental Fusion pieces were also causing controversy, even though they did not contain nudity or strip tease. Though I was a cabaret dancer, the Tribal and Fusion communities embraced me wholeheartedly. They understood and embraced my individualism and artistic sensibilities. Kajira Djoumahna even called me “a belly dance cross-over artist” and for the past five years, even though I have never done ATS or anything remotely related, roughly half my gigs have been at Tribal events!

Acclaimed filmmaker Steve Balderson shot and directed a documentary on my dance career, called “Underbelly: A Year In The Life Of Dancer Princess Farhana”. He followed me to gigs all over the world for all of 2007, and the film was released theatrically and on DVD in 2008.

In the past couple of years, it seems that things have come full circle. Every element of my life somehow makes sense. For the past two years I’ve had the honor – and yes, professional validation - of teaching and performing at Raqia Hassan’s Ahlan Wa Sahlan Festival in Cairo, where I will be returning to teach and perform in 2011. Last summer, with my partner Zahra Zuhair, I lead a belly dance tour to Cairo, and we’re doing it again this year! Come with us!

“Stuck!” a feature film based on 1950s Cinema Noir, in which I had a principle acting role, got great reviews when it was released and is now available on DVD.

In September 2010, I finished shooting another feature film, “The Casserole Club”, it’s a dark drama set in 1969. That will be released next year. I got to kiss Kevin Richardson (of  The Backstreet Boys!) in the movie … and also to work with many other talented actors.

Burlesque is now pretty widely accepted in the belly dance community as well as the mainstream … and every time I see a belly dancer onstage with feather fans, I know it’s at least partly my fault!

I am nearly finished with a book I’m writing on belly dance, which will be published in summer 2011. I also have a new DVD in the works, on stage make-up, and I’m working on a costume design project as well.

On my recent 50th birthday, all my worlds collided and I had a HUGE bash that was attended by everyone from punk rock stars, writers and actors to world-famous belly dancers and burlesque artists.

I also realized that even though I never had a career in ballet, all of my other dreams - as well as some I never imagined -, came true!

Sneak peek at the movie I shot last September: "The Casserole Club", Steve Balderson's dark drama about 1960's swingers. Left to right: me, Daniela Sea & Jane Weidlin
(This article was already published 2009 by the US periodical "Zaghareet", issue November-December 2009. Her Royal Highness, Princess Farhana, was so very gracious to actualize the text  for us.)
www.zaghareet.freeservers.com
"Stuck", a hommage to the "film noir" of the 1940s.
(www.stucknoir.com)
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Princess Farhana is guest at Ludmilla's and Monika's „Zentrum für Orientalischen Tanz“ (www.tanz-zentrum.de)
in Munich, Feb., 12th/13th 2011! Her majesty will held Workshops there, and there will also be a Studio show
with Princess Farhana!
Sat., Feb. 12th, 8 pm,
ORIENTAL-BURLESQUE-SHOW
Studioshow with Princess Farhana and dancers of "Zentrum für Orientalischen Tanz". Box office only!
Princess Farhana is a multifaceted artist, who made herself a name not only as a cabaret dancer, but also as a burlesque performer. And she is widely known for her innovative fusions. She is a regular at Tribal Fest in Sebastopol, California, the most notorious tribal festival worldwide. As a burlesque dancer Princess Farhana teaches at the Tease-O-Rama, (the burlesque convention), and at international burlesque contests she contributes as a jury member.

Princess Farhana is widely known for her exact dancing technique, her dramatic fusions and her unparalleled stage presence. With her contagious enthusiasm, her daring ideas and her natural royal cordiality she charms the audience as well as her students over to her side in no time.
Workshops in Munich

Sat., Feb. 12th, 11 am -1 pm
THE NAUGHTY SIDE OF LITTLE EGYPT

Sat., Feb 12th, 2 pm - 5 pm
ORIENT NOIR: JAZZY VINTAGE FUSION

Sun., Feb. 13th, 11 am - 1 pm
"ABS-OLUTELY FABULOUS!" LAYERING-TECHNIQUE

Sun., Feb. 13th, 2 pm -5 pm
NEO-VINTAGE FUSION CHOREOGRAPHIE
WITH PROPS

For further informations klick here, please:
"Underbelly"
A Year In The Life
Of Dancer
Princess Farhana”.
A documentary by Steve Balderson
Visit The Royal Palace On Line:  www.princessfarhana.com www.facebook.com/princessfarhana www.twitter.com/princessfarhana www.princessraqs.blogspot.com
PRINCESS FARHANA - That's me!
Her majesty in her own words
by Pleasant Gehman